Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Uh, Misss, What Does Badass Mean?

So, I teach English in France, and a student asked what 'badass" means (because she heard it in a song.) This isn't the first time this question has been asked. In response, I realized how difficult it was to explain the meaning of badass...it just means, well, BADASS!

 So, I asked an English teacher for the french translation, but she had never heard the word. My disheveled explanation to her included dijointed, descriptive utterings as follows :

the utmost of cool... motorcycle...respectfully rebellious...Steve McQueen...whiskey...edgy...the idealized American frontiersman...???

The teacher asked, "So, is it just an American term? How long Americans been using the word?" GOOD QUESTION. I've never had to think of that. Due to Kid Rock's "American Badass," I had concrete evidence that the term has been around since circa 2000.

This caused me to do some serious reflecting/ researching about this word. I mean, I believe, one can use this word liberally, as in that day of shopping in Paris where everything I saw was "badass" for some reason. 

Or, Wikitionary defines badass as "A person whose extreme attitudes and behavior are admirable."

Okay. I can get on board with that.

Then Urban Dictionary's most approved definition is a tad bit more verbose:

           "The epitome of the American male. He radiates confidence in everything he does, whether it's       ordering a drink, buying a set of wheels, or dealing with women. He's slow to anger, brutally efficient when fighting back."

Yeah, I agree, I usually think of a male when I think of a badass. But, there are women badasses!!! And here are a few, in my opinon...

1. Lyudmila Pavlichenko- a female warrior badass. She was a Soviet sniper in WWI and is regarded as the most successful woman sniper in history.
Here are excerpts from a Time article in 1942:

"Liudmila Pavlichenko, Russian Army girl sniper who killed 309 Germans, had to cancel a radio interview in Manhattan last week because a dentist pulled one of her front teeth and the resulting whistle would have been noticeable on the air waves."


" 'I am amazed at the kind of questions put to me by the women press correspondents in Washington. Don't they know there is a war? They asked me silly questions such as do I use powder and rouge and nail polish and do I curl my hair? One reporter even criticized the length of the skirt of my uniform, saying that in America women wear shorter skirts and besides my uniform made me look fat...This made me angry. I wear my uniform with honor. It has the Order of Lenin on it. It has been covered with blood in battle. It is plain to see that with American women what is important is whether they wear silk underwear under their uniforms. What the uniform stands for, they have yet to learn.' "
 2. Niki de St Phalle Artistic Badass. Okay, I already did a post about her, so I will just say, she's a Frenchie who was a model-turned-badass painter. She had what were called "shooting paintings" where she shot baggies full of paint glued to a canvas and let the paint bleed.
But Niki is most famous for this outside of the Centre Pompidou:
3. Tina Fey. "She makes me laugh so hard that my badass falls of the chair" badass. Cheers to her for breaking into a man's world and giving me endless one-liner's from 30 Rock and something to discuss with my 'lil sis after every episode. Tina makes me love Thursdays.

4. Alison Mosshart. "I've never seen anyone come alive like that on stage" badass. It's intoxicating...indescribable, especially because she is a supposed "shy" girl off stage. NOT AT ALL on it.  It's as if she enters into another "badass" realm and you want her to take you there too. Plus her fashion kicks ass and she said you'd never see her in a dress.

 Last but not least...

5.  Kim Gordon. Proof that you can be a badass rocker past 50 and have it all: Sonic Youth, the husband, the daughter, the fashion line.

Okay, there you have it. What it means to be a badass.

C'est tout, folks.

P.S. Pardon me, Kid Rock, but I have to disagree with your assertion. I'm afraid you do not fit my description of what it is to be "badass."

P.S.S. Badass has many levels, as you see. If you want a more profound definition, check out my dad's description of what it means to be a "gentle badass."

P.S.S.S. I think I might have to now fast from saying badass after this post.  Hmmm....40 days and 40 nights of not saying badass? NAHHH.


  1. Wow, brilliant explanation!!!
    Now even I know what badass stands for, and from the looking at these women I aspire to be a badass one day!!!


    Love the passport animation at the end of the post...really cool, and a lovely blog.

  2. Ha thats pretty amazing. Its so difficult to explain slang words I would say a real cool person who has gained a lot of respect through what they have accomplished!? Great badass references!! Great blog :)


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